Publication 837

Bilson A. & Thorpe D. H. (2007) Towards aesthetic seduction using emotional engagement and stories. Kybernetes 36(7/8): 936–945. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/837
This paper aims to provide principles and to give a case study of the application of Bateson’s ideas to promote epistemological change in organisations to deal with problems which many governments currently attempt to address by control through detailed performance indicators and top-down monitoring. It suggests that epistemological change requires an approach that goes beyond rational argument and provides an example of the way that emotional engagement and story telling can be built into action research based on cybernetic ideas. Bateson stresses the need for an epistemological change to embrace an understanding of the implications of circular causation to underpin our approach to problems and policy making. The case study shows how research using systemic principles can address epistemological change at all its stages including data collection and dissemination. In this way the research aims to become a conversation in which participants can reflect on the epistemological assumptions that underpin their actions. Relevance: Following Maturana and Bateson it is found that a reflexive conversation that engages participants through emotion and story telling as well as demonstrating reflection on the researcher’s own assumptions can powerfully engage participants in changing how they see problems and what they do. Whilst rational argument can be used to develop and expand a rational domain, including the rational domain of cybernetics, the paper suggests that the introduction of a systemic or cybernetic understanding to newcomers instead requires aesthetic seduction that can be achieved by promoting reflection on epistemological assumptions through story telling and emotional engagement.

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